Pardew targets 11th before FA Cup final

Date published: Friday 29th April 2016 2:05

Alan Pardew has demanded Crystal Palace produce a strong finish to the Barclays Premier League season – with 11th in sight – before they focus on winning the FA Cup.

That they are to contest the cup final against Manchester United on May 21 and are close to securing their top-flight status represents a successful season for his team.

However, the manager on Saturday returns to former club Newcastle for the first time since his departure in December 2014 – and despite the benefits involved in resting his key players before their date at Wembley Stadium, insists he has no intention of letting up.

Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce has already spoken of his belief Palace will lose to Newcastle because of a lack of motivation from reaching the Cup final and going “on the pop” to celebrate.

However, even amid his desire to see his former team survive relegation, Pardew said: “I need to focus the team on the most important issue: Saturday’s game, and the two (against Stoke and Southampton) to come after that.

“I need to make sure we’re covering bases so the team are focused for Newcastle.

“Where we should finish and where we do will be determined in the next few days. There’s a small margin between us and the teams above us up to 11th. We are trying to hunt those teams down.

“We want to finish comfortable and then look forward to the final.”

Saturday’s fixture also represents Yohan Cabaye’s first at St James’ Park since he left Newcastle for Paris St Germain in January 2014.

He was the Magpies’ finest player until then, at which point their form began to decline and Newcastle fans’ faith in Pardew reached a new low.

The 54-year-old said: “(Cabaye) showed the bigger the game the better he is (in Sunday’s semi-final defeat of Watford).

“He rises to the occasion. I’m pretty sure that Newcastle’s fans will give him a great reception because he was brilliant for us up there.

“You’re due nothing in this game. We have to earn it. We have to earn it in a stadium where they’re passionate for this team.

“Me going back to that club means nothing to those fans. They want to see their team playing with heart and spirit and winning. It’s a tough ask trying to win there.”

Palace will continue to monitor Wilfried Zaha’s fitness in the hope he recovers from a leg injury in time to start Saturday’s fixture, but beyond the young winger and long-term absentees Brede Hangeland, Paddy McCarthy and Marouane Chamakh, Pardew has a fully-fit squad from which to choose.

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